2008 Report to Congress Executive Summary

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Chesapeake Bay Program Overview

The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a comprehensive cooperative effort by federal, state, and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, academics, and other entities that share the mission of restoring
and protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.

Created in 1983 and authorized by Section 117 of the Clean Water Act, the Chesapeake Bay Program is directed by the Chesapeake Executive Council (EC). The Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO) is maintained by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), supported and staffed by many partners, and provides support to the EC and CBP. The CBPO serves several critical functions, as defined in the authorization, including:

• implementing and coordinating science, research, and monitoring;

• reporting on the environmental quality and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed;

• in cooperation with other federal, state and local authorities, assisting in developing and implementing specific action plans;

• coordinating the actions of EPA with those of other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations; and

• implementing outreach programs for public information, education, and stewardship.

The Chesapeake Executive Council directs the CBP through signed agreements and directives. The most recent agreement signed by the EC, the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, describes a bold effort to combat the current trends and to restore the Bay by 2010. A hallmark of the CBP’s success has been its use of science as the basis for building clear outcome goals for complex, multistakeholder restoration efforts, allocating those goals through a consensus-based approach among the partners, and measuring progress toward meeting those goals. The
partnership has developed unparalleled cooperative efforts and pioneered clean up strategies that have resulted in measurable gains in reducing the flow of pollutants into the Bay and improving aquatic habitat for the Bay’s living resources.

The CBP reports its comprehensive understanding of Bay health and restoration progress to the public through an annual assessment using a series of related indicators. The most recent assessment, Chesapeake Bay 2007 Health and Restoration Assessment: A Report to the Citizens of the Bay Region, was released in April 2008.

Despite substantial effort and progress by the full spectrum of partners, the Bay’s health remains degraded. Restoration efforts are being overtaken by current trends. For example, population in the watershed has grown nearly 17 million bringing more roads, homes, industrial and business parks, and other impervious surfaces which harden the landscape. Development has drastically altered the natural hydrology and thereby the natural filtering systems for nutrient and sediment pollution.

Context for this Report

In October 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its report Chesapeake Bay Program: Improved Strategies are Needed to Better Assess, Report and Manage Restoration Progress. The GAO report recommended that CBPO:

• complete efforts to develop and implement an integrated assessment approach;

• revise its reporting approach to improve effectiveness and credibility; and

• develop a comprehensive, coordinated implementation strategy that takes into account available resources.

In December 2007, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-161). The Act’s Explanatory Statement directed EPA to:

• immediately implement all of the recommendations of the 2005 GAO Report;

• submit a report to Congress and to GAO, with supporting evidence, that demonstrates the GAO recommendations have been implemented; and

• develop a Chesapeake Action Plan for the remaining years of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement that contains specified components (i.e., realistic annual targets, actual activities, amount and source of funding, process to track and measure progress).

2005 GAO Recommendations Fulfilled – At a Glance

This Report to Congress describes the collective efforts of CBP partners to implement all the GAO recommendations. This report provides documentation and evidence to demonstrate how these recommendations have been implemented and will support enhanced coordination, collaboration, and accountability among the CBP partners.

In addition, this report describes the CBP’s development of the Chesapeake Action Plan (CAP), which is an important enhancement of the CBP’s management system that supports implementation of the GAO recommendations.

Chesapeake Action Plan – Purpose and Elements

Consistent with GAO’s recommendations and the Explanatory Statement of the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161), the CBP partners have designed, developed, and begun implementation of the
first version of the CAP.

The CAP includes four primary components, each of which is described in this report to Congress:

• a strategic framework that unifies CBP’s existing planning documents and clarifies how CBP partners will pursue the restoration and protection goals for the Bay and its watershed;

• an activity integration plan with comprehensive, quality assured data for 2007 that identifies and catalogues CBP partners’ implementation activities and corresponding resources;

• dashboards, which are high-level summaries of key information, such as clear status of progress, expected progress toward certain Chesapeake 2000 goals, summaries of actions and funding, and a brief summary of the challenges and actions needed to expedite progress; and

• an adaptive management process that begins to identify how this information and analysis will provide critical input to CBP partners’ actions, emphasis, and future priorities.

This first version of the CAP includes the implementation activities and corresponding resources of ten federal agencies, six states, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and two non-governmental organizations.

These components should promote enhanced coordination among CBP partners; encourage the partners to continually review and improve their progress in protecting and restoring the Bay; increase the transparency
of CBP’s operations for partners and the public; and improve the accountability mechanisms of CBP as a whole and of the individual partners for meeting their Bay health and restoration goals.

The CAP includes the tools necessary to support a management system that more closely aligns implementation responsibilities with the unique capabilities and missions of the CBP partners. Through the activity integration
plan, partner activities will be made transparent and maintained in a centralized database to position the CBP to identify potential activity overlap and gaps. This will improve our ability to avoid duplication of effort and better target our resources. As a whole, the CAP represents an important enhancement to the way CBP will operate.

It is important to note that CBP partners have long been engaged in significant actions to advance the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. CBP partners are strongly committed to achieving CBP’s goals for the
Bay. The CAP should place CBP on a course to accelerate the pace at which the partners implement actions to improve the Bay.

Chesapeake Action Plan – Next Steps

The CAP represents an important enhancement in coordination and accountability. While much has been accomplished in the design, development, and implementation of the plan, key next steps include:

• verifying and validating the preliminary 2008 and 2009 funding data currently contained in the CAP database;

• validating the design of the CAP;

• expanding the scope of the CAP to include additional watershed partners;

• continuing to refine the breadth and quality of the information on implementation activities by CBP partners;

• closely evaluating and considering how the CAP can better enhance coordination, collaboration, and accountability; and

• providing information about the CAP to the public and to other estuary and watershed programs.

Summary of CBP’s Implementation of GAO’s Recommended Actions

 

GAO Recommendation GAO Recommended Action Implemented CBP Action
Complete efforts to develop and implement
an integrated approach to assess overall restoration
process.
1. Complete plans to develop
and implement an
integrated approach to
assess overall restoration
progress.
1a. April 2005
1b. May 2006
a. Reduced more than 100 Bay health and restoration indicators into three indices of ecosystem health and five indices of restoration effort.
b. Organized 102 Chesapeake 2000 commitments into a six-goal strategy and began managing the program according to
this design.
Revise reporting
approach to improve
the effectiveness
and credibility
of reports.
2. Include an assessment
of the key ecological attributes
that reflect the
Bay’s current health
conditions.
March 2006 Developed 13 environmental indicators that
directly measure key ecological attributes of
the Bay. These indicators were the basis for
the first integrated health assessment of the
Bay, published in March 2006.
3. Report separately on
the health of the Bay
and on the progress
made in implementing
management actions.
March 2006 Separated restoration activities from ecosystem
health and developed an annual reporting
process for both. Published annual
Chesapeake Bay Health & Restoration Assessment reports in new format starting in
2006.
4. Establish an independent
and objective reporting
process.
September
2006
Established a new reporting process based
on an independent review of the first integrated
Health & Restoration Assessment and
instituted longer term process for ensuring
continued independent review of the Assessments through the Chesapeake Bay region’s scientific community.
Develop a comprehensive,
coordinated
implementation
strategy that
takes into account
available resources.
5. Develop an overall, coordinated
implementation
strategy that unifies
the program’s various
planning documents.
May 2008 Developed a strategic framework that unifies
CBP’s past agreements, policies, plans, and
indicators into a single, integrated implementation strategy. This action, along with the action described in response to GAO’s sixth recommended action, constitutes the Chesapeake
Action Plan.
6. Establish a means to
better target its limited
resources to ensure
that the most effective
and realistic work plans
are developed and implemented.
May 2008 As directed by Congress, designed and produced
an initial activity integration plan that
identifies current and planned protection and
restoration activities undertaken by CBP
partners, as well as funding allocated by CBP
partners for those activities. The activity integration plan will continue to be revised and
improved. Developed initial realistic annual
targets for the remaining years of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.
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